Aetiology and outcomes of pleural infections in Canterbury: Filling knowledge gaps to change practice

Status: In-progress
Year: 2022
Funded: $73,586
Grant Type: Major Project Grant
Researcher // Dr Michael Maze – University of Otago

Michael is an infectious disease and respiratory physician who has trained in NZ and internationally.

He currently works as a clinician at Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury and as a senior lecturer at the University of Otago Christchurch.

His research interests include all aspects of respiratory infectious disease, and One Health approaches to zoonotic infections, particularly in tropical low- and middle-income countries.

More About Dr Michael Maze

Pleural infection is a common and severe condition in which fluid builds up between the lungs and the chest due to a bacterial infection. Identifying the bacteria causing pleural infections is critical in choosing the correct antibiotics. Currently, by trying to culture bacteria from the fluid, doctors only identify the responsible bacteria in 60% of cases. We suspect bacteria that are difficult to grow, such as Legionella – the cause of Legionnaires’ disease, might be responsible. In Canterbury, Legionnaires disease is common – with among the highest rates in the world. We think it could also be a common cause of pleural infection. 

We will find the responsible bacteria by looking for their DNA in the fluid using PCR testing. Better understanding of which bacteria are causing pleural infections, and particularly the role of Legionnaires’ disease, will help guide doctors’ antibiotic choices and help patients recover. 

Little is known about how long it takes people to recover from pleural infections once they leave hospital. We aim to better understand recovery from pleural infection by following people for twelve months after their diagnosis and asking detailed questions about their health. This information will help future patients understand what to expect and help guide support from the health system.


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